Engineer wires a second life into dying AirPods

Haven't corporations' innovations towards planned obsolescence gotten out of hand already?
Amal Jos Chacko
Apple's Airpods.jpg
Apple's Airpods.


This decade has seen a rise in the use of lithium-ion batteries and an ever-growing mountain of discarded e-waste with dead cells of the same type. It does make one wonder: are corporations’ innovations toward planned obsolescence getting out of hand?

Meet Ken Pillonel, an engineer from Switzerland, who has had enough of Apple’s disposable devices. Having previously built the world’s first iPhone with a USB-C port, he turned his attention to spreading awareness of repairability issues of gadgets among the masses.

Three years after purchasing his Apple AirPods, Pilllonel noticed them lasting just 30 seconds while on battery. This didn’t come as a surprise, given lithium-ion batteries' well-documented terrible aging. What made it worse, however, was one of his AirPods breaking as he attempted to replace its battery. 

This shouldn’t have been a surprise either, given Apple’s design- beautiful to look at, yet impossible to mend; and their well-deserved scathing score of 0 iFixit gave them for repairability, says Pillonel in a press release.

Combined with the difficulty to procure a spare battery from a trusted source, Pillonel turned to trusty old wires- his most innovative project yet. In a video he uploaded, the dead battery was removed. With a bit of soldering magic and some heat shrink tube later, the AirPods can be seen to be alive and kicking, albeit tethered to a USB-C cable. Perhaps this could be the first wired earphones for those new USB-C iPhones rumored to come out next year.

A need for escape pods for the AirPods

When Apple introduced the AirPods to the world, they pitched a tale of liberation- liberation from tangling and tear-prone wires. In hindsight, we can see that the larger impact was us consumers getting hooked into an ecosystem of proprietary products designed to fail a few years later. 

So what are we then expected to do when these AirPods inevitably fail? Should we try to recycle them as responsible citizens and find ourselves in the tricky spot of separating its battery and innards? Or should we chuck them away, where they could end up in a landfill, embedding their plastics into the earth, or a garbage compactor facility where it could start a huge fire? It is unclear. What isn’t, however, is the contribution of such products towards turning the world into a throw-away society.

Perhaps rants of “they don’t make ‘em like they used to” aren’t unfounded. Boy, I would love those days when watches were passed down through generations and every appliance lasted a lifetime.

Bring back removable batteries. And wires. And the headphone jack while you’re at it. 

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